The Stranger (1946)

94-95 mins | Drama | 1946

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HISTORY

The Stranger was the last International Pictures production to be released by RKO. Although Twentieth Century-Fox protested RKO's use of the title The Stranger because of its concurrent release Strangers on the Highway , an MPPA arbitration board found no conflict between the two titles, according to a HR news item. International borrowed production designer Perry Ferguson from Samuel Goldwyn's company for the film. HR news items note that filming was done at the Goldwyn Studios and on Universal's back lot. Production news items add Rebel Randall, Lillian Molieri, Johnny Sands, Joseph Granby, Robert Raison, Fred Godoy, Gabriel Peralta, Nancy Evans, Josephine Victor, Ruth Lee, Neal Dodd and Gerald Pierce to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Although the HR review in May 1946 lists the running time as 85 minutes, this length is probably an error. No information concerning the The Haig Corp., the company listed as the picture's copyright claimant, has been found. Victor Trivas was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Story. Modern sources add the following information about the film's inception and production: Impressed by Welles's work on Citizen Kane , producer Sam Spiegel (whose onscreen credit reads S. P. Eagle), approached the filmmaker with a script written by Anthony Veiller and uncredited contributor John Huston. Welles, who was interested in doing a political story, accepted the part and offered to direct the film as well. Although Spiegel had originally intended Huston to direct, he agreed to hire Welles as director on condition that ... More Less

The Stranger was the last International Pictures production to be released by RKO. Although Twentieth Century-Fox protested RKO's use of the title The Stranger because of its concurrent release Strangers on the Highway , an MPPA arbitration board found no conflict between the two titles, according to a HR news item. International borrowed production designer Perry Ferguson from Samuel Goldwyn's company for the film. HR news items note that filming was done at the Goldwyn Studios and on Universal's back lot. Production news items add Rebel Randall, Lillian Molieri, Johnny Sands, Joseph Granby, Robert Raison, Fred Godoy, Gabriel Peralta, Nancy Evans, Josephine Victor, Ruth Lee, Neal Dodd and Gerald Pierce to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Although the HR review in May 1946 lists the running time as 85 minutes, this length is probably an error. No information concerning the The Haig Corp., the company listed as the picture's copyright claimant, has been found. Victor Trivas was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Story. Modern sources add the following information about the film's inception and production: Impressed by Welles's work on Citizen Kane , producer Sam Spiegel (whose onscreen credit reads S. P. Eagle), approached the filmmaker with a script written by Anthony Veiller and uncredited contributor John Huston. Welles, who was interested in doing a political story, accepted the part and offered to direct the film as well. Although Spiegel had originally intended Huston to direct, he agreed to hire Welles as director on condition that he not alter the script once production had begun and pay International out of his own pocket if the film went over budget. In addition, because of Welles's reputation for making long, slow films, the script was to be preedited by cutter Ernest Nims. Anxious to improve his standing in Hollywood, Welles accepted Spiegel's stipulations and, although he wanted Mercury Theater star Agnes Moorehead to play the role of "Wilson," agreed to cast Edward G. Robinson in the part. According to a modern interview, Welles "worked" on the script during "general rewriting" with Veiller and Spiegel. Welles claimed in the interview that he wrote "all the stuff in the drugstore as well as the first two or three reels of the picture, which were almost entirely cut." In addition, Welles took credit for inventing Billy House's checker-playing character. As promised, Welles brought the picture in on time and on budget. The Connecticut town constructed by production designer Perry Ferguson, who had worked with Welles on Citizen Kane , was the highest set used in a film since D. W. Griffith's 1916 epic Intolerance . The film's clock was an actual timepiece that had been in the Los Angeles County Courthouse prior to 1922. After Welles had the clock inserted into the set tower, he insisted that scenes showing the clock in motion be shot realistically, without rear projection or other trick photography. During the editing process, Nims cut a prologue showing "Kindler" in Latin America prior to moving to Vermont. According to a modern interview, Welles vehemently protested the cut, which included a scene in which Kindler steps on a baby's coffin. Modern sources add Irving Pichel to the cast. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
25 May 1946.
---
Daily Variety
21 May 46
p. 3, 11
Daily Variety
18 Jun 1946.
---
Film Daily
23 May 46
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Sep 45
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Sep 45
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Oct 45
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Oct 45
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Oct 45
p. 21.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Oct 45
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Nov 45
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Apr 46
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
21 May 46
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jul 46
p. 6.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
8 Dec 45
p. 2756.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
25 May 46
p. 3005.
New York Times
11 Jul 46
p. 18.
Variety
22 May 46
p. 10.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Ed supv
MUSIC
SOUND
Mus mixer
MAKEUP
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Asst prod mgr
Unit pub
DETAILS
Release Date:
1946
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and Salt Lake, UT opening: 2 July 1946
Cincinati, OH and New Orleans, LA opening: 3 July
Production Date:
late September--late November 1945 at Samuel Goldwyn Studios and Universal Studios
Copyright Claimant:
The Haig Corp.
Copyright Date:
27 June 1946
Copyright Number:
LP409
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
94-95
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
11353
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In post-war Germany, Wilson, an American delegate to the Allied War Crimes Commission, demands that Nazi prisoner of war Meinike be allowed to escape so that he may lead the Commission to his former boss, Franz Kindler, the most dangerous and elusive Nazi of all. Watched carefully by Wilson, the freed Meinike travels to Latin America and there contacts a former Nazi cohort about the whereabouts of Kindler. After some resistance, Meinike learns that Kindler, an avowed clock enthusiast, is living under the name Professor Charles Rankin in a small Vermont town called Harper. As soon as Meinike arrives in Harper, which boasts an old, ornate church clock, he deposits his suitcase at the local drugstore and heads for the school at which Rankin is a teacher. At the school, Meinike becomes aware that he is being followed by Wilson and knocks him unconscious in the gymnasium. Fleeing, Meinike goes to Rankin's home, where he meets the unsuspecting Mary Longstreet and learns that she and Rankin are to be married that evening. After Meinike finally locates Rankin near the school, a nervous, tense Rankin orders him to the woods. There, Rankin informs Meinike that he is marrying Mary, the daughter of a Supreme Court Justice, only because she is the perfect cover for him. When Meinike, who claims to have found God, reveals that he was followed to Harper, Rankin chokes him to death and buries him under a pile of leaves. Wilson, meanwhile, revives and, as Mary and Rankin are being married, heads for the drugstore, where owner Mr. Potter tells him about the mysterious Meinike and his suitcase. Wilson ... +


In post-war Germany, Wilson, an American delegate to the Allied War Crimes Commission, demands that Nazi prisoner of war Meinike be allowed to escape so that he may lead the Commission to his former boss, Franz Kindler, the most dangerous and elusive Nazi of all. Watched carefully by Wilson, the freed Meinike travels to Latin America and there contacts a former Nazi cohort about the whereabouts of Kindler. After some resistance, Meinike learns that Kindler, an avowed clock enthusiast, is living under the name Professor Charles Rankin in a small Vermont town called Harper. As soon as Meinike arrives in Harper, which boasts an old, ornate church clock, he deposits his suitcase at the local drugstore and heads for the school at which Rankin is a teacher. At the school, Meinike becomes aware that he is being followed by Wilson and knocks him unconscious in the gymnasium. Fleeing, Meinike goes to Rankin's home, where he meets the unsuspecting Mary Longstreet and learns that she and Rankin are to be married that evening. After Meinike finally locates Rankin near the school, a nervous, tense Rankin orders him to the woods. There, Rankin informs Meinike that he is marrying Mary, the daughter of a Supreme Court Justice, only because she is the perfect cover for him. When Meinike, who claims to have found God, reveals that he was followed to Harper, Rankin chokes him to death and buries him under a pile of leaves. Wilson, meanwhile, revives and, as Mary and Rankin are being married, heads for the drugstore, where owner Mr. Potter tells him about the mysterious Meinike and his suitcase. Wilson soon narrows his list of suspects to Rankin, who has been fixing the church clock, then poses as an antique dealer and clock enthusiast in order to ingratiate himself to Mary and the professor. While dining with Wilson, Mary, her brother Noah and her father, Rankin speaks disparagingly about Germany and convinces Wilson of his innocence. Later that night, however, Wilson remembers that Rankin had said that Karl Marx was not a "German" because he was a Jew, and decides to continue his investigation. At the same time, Rankin goes to check up on Meinike's body in the woods and is upset when Red, Mary's dog, begins to dig at the site. The next day, Wilson goes fishing with Noah and, sensing that the teenager dislikes Rankin, asks him to help in his investigation. After Noah agrees to find out everything that Mary did on her wedding day, Wilson and Potter open Meinike's suitcase in the drugstore. Although the suitcase's contents reveal nothing, Wilson uses it as a pretext to question Mary, who comes in with Rankin, about Meinike. When Mary starts to mention that she had met the strange man, Rankin silences her. Later, Rankin "confesses" to Mary that Meinike was blackmailing him about an accidental death in which he was involved, and Mary believes him when he claims that he paid the foreigner off. When Noah discovers Red dead from poison, Wilson deduces that he was killed by Rankin because he was digging at Meinike's grave, and a search is instigated. Realizing that his crime is about to be discovered, Rankin tells Mary that he had to kill the blackmailing Meinike to protect her from scandal. Still confident of her husband's goodness, Mary insists on escaping with him, even as Meinike's body is being uncovered by the townspeople. Wilson, however, is determined that she should know the truth about Rankin and has her father call her to his home. Although Mary insists on Rankin's innocence, Wilson is sure that she understands the situation on a subconscious level and suspects that Rankin will attempt to kill her. As predicted, Mary begins to unravel emotionally, and Rankin plots to murder her by sawing a step in the church tower ladder and ordering her to meet him there alone. Sara, Mary's devoted housekeeper, however, feigns a heart attack in order to prevent Mary from going, and Mary asks Noah to notify Rankin that she is going to be late. While Rankin plays checkers with Potter, Noah and Wilson go to the church. After Noah is nearly killed by the sabotaged step, Rankin returns home and is startled to see Mary there. Distraught, Rankin reveals his scheme to a horrified Mary, who, sure that she has caused Noah's death, orders her husband to kill her. Rankin, however, cannot do the deed and flees to the church tower. Later that night, Mary finds an armed Rankin and declares her intention to kill him. At that moment, however, Wilson shows up, and a struggle ensues. Mary retrieves Rankin's gun and shoots him in the shoulder, after which Rankin stumbles onto the clock face and is skewered by one of the clock's lance-wielding statues. As a mob of angry townspeople watch, Rankin falls to his death, and Mary is finally freed from his past. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.